Triggerman Gets Life in Newark Schoolyard Killings

NEWARK, N.J. (AP / WCBS 880 / CBS 2) — There were tears and anger Thursday in the Essex County courtroom where the man who admitted pulling the trigger in the execution-style murders of three college students in 2007 was sentenced to life in prison.


WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reports from Newark

schoolyard killings sentencing sff Triggerman Gets Life in Newark Schoolyard Killings

Melvin Jovel, 21, left, stands in superior court Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Robert Sciarrino, Pool)

Melvin Jovel pleaded guilty to murder, attempted murder and weapons charges days before his trial was to begin in September.

Prosecutors said 21-year-old Jovel and five other young men lined up Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey, both 20, and 18-year-old Terrance Aeriel, against a schoolyard wall in Newark and shot each of them in the back of the head on a summer night in 2007.

A fourth victim survived and testified at the first trial in the case that she was sexually assaulted, slashed with a machete and shot in the head.

She also spoke in court Thursday, thanking Jovel for “allowing me to get closer to Christ” before chastising him for refusing to look at her as she spoke.

“You and your homies had a plan for me, you wanted me dead _ but I’m still here,” said the woman, who is not being identified by The Associated Press because of the sexual assault charges. “Have fun living your fancy life in jail,” she added.

Jovel, wearing dark green prison scrubs and translation headphones, stared straight ahead throughout the proceedings, making only a brief statement in Spanish before his sentencing.

“The only thing I have to say is the person who was sentenced had nothing to do with it,” Jovel said, an apparent reference to co-defendant Rodolfo Godinez, who was sentenced in July to three consecutive life sentences for the killings.

Four other defendants are in jail awaiting trial.

Prosecutors said Godinez, a legal immigrant from Nicaragua, Jovel, an illegal Honduran immigrant, and several of the defendants were engaging in an initiation ritual for members of the MS-13 street gang. The men did not know the victims, prosecutors said, but Jovel and at least two of the other suspects had lived in an apartment complex across the street from the scene of the slayings.

The four victims, who attended or planned to attend Delaware State University, were hanging out listening to music behind Newark’s Mount Vernon school on the night of Aug. 4, 2007, when they were approached by the suspects, who robbed them and forced them to lie on the ground before shooting them, according to prosecutors.

The publicity surrounding the killings focused national attention on violent crime in New Jersey’s largest city and jump-started anti-crime initiatives. The killings also led state officials to grant police the authority to refer violent crime suspects’ names to immigration authorities if they are suspected of being in the country illegally.

Several of the victims’ family members spoke at the sentencing, including Dashon Harvey’s father, James.

“My son was a beacon of light in our society, in which beacons of light are hard to find,” he said. “He made me proud to be his dad, in a society without a lot of fathers.”

The families expressed relief at Jovel’s sentencing, but Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Thomas McTigue said it was little comfort compared to “the pain and enormity of the cases.”

“I think it bespeaks the community’s growing impatience with the violence that permeates everyday life, and the casual way sometimes life is taken in this county without provocation, and without any seeming good reason,” McTigue said.

State Superior Court Judge Michael Ravin gave Jovel three consecutive life sentences plus 20 years, which in New Jersey, is an aggregate sentence of about 245 years.

Jovel would have to serve at least 85 percent of that before becoming eligible for parole.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More from Levon Putney
Comments

One Comment

  1. MRS I UNDERSTAND says:

    THIS IS AN OUTRAGE..AN INJUSTICE..WHY SHOULD TAXPYERS BE HELD RESPONSIBLE TO KEEP THIS LOW-LIFE LIVING COMFORTABLE..TV..EXERCISE EQUIP..THREE HOTS AND A COT..VISITS..ETC..THIS IS A CASE WHERE THE DEATH PENALTY SHOULD BE UTILIZED EXPEDITIOUSLY..HE DIDN’T GIVE THEM THE CHOICE TO LIVE FASHIONABLY PRODUCTIVE AND NEITHER SHOULD HE..LET HIM DIE…!

  2. greg says:

    The people that commit these crimes, Do Not Care about human life or themselves, especially themselves…. they will not show or fear any remorse, just anger and frustrastion. They will be ” thugs ” for life, and should alll look deep inside their selves, but when they look, they wont find anything…..

  3. ed says:

    very sad they all should be put to death.thye have no remorse.jail is to easy for them

  4. JD says:

    @jim me too.

  5. JD says:

    I can’t fathom how these kinds of people live with themselves after they take a life. Yea they should be made to suffer more consequences other than prison. They should feel some sort of pain for the hurt they cause.

  6. JIM says:

    this man should die , i would like to be the one to push the switch.

  7. JD says:

    Justice served unfortunately it won’t bring these 3 beautiful people back.

  8. I.P. DAILY says:

    LIFE?????? THATS A LITTLE HARSH ISNT IT???

  9. Devenio says:

    I’m sorry but the sentence is not harsh enough. He needs to know every second of every day for the rest of his life what he did. He should never smile or laugh again. Blind him and bust his ear drums.

  10. surfinbird says:

    hes only 21 no chance of parole?
    fry him

Comments are closed.

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